Author of ‘Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change’, Marian Wright Edelman gave a lecture at Harvard University recently, she contrasted the moral poverty that dominates contemporary American life.
“The legacies my parents and church and teachers left to my generation of black children were priceless but not material: a living faith reflected in daily service; the discipline of hard work and stick-to-it-itvness; a capacity to struggle in the face of adversity; a belief that service is the rent you pay for living, not something you do in your spare time or after you have achieved personal ambitions.
Giving-up and burnout were not part of the language of my elders. The believed that failure is impossible is your effort is one of love, designed not just to win but to help. I was fourteen when my daddy died. He had holes in his shoes but two children who had graduated college, one child in college, and another in divinity school and a vision he was able, dying in an ambulance, to convey to me: that I, a young black girl, could be and do anything; that race and gender are shadows; and that character, self discipline, determination, attitude and service are the substances of life. He knew what Walter Percy wrote: that you can get all A’s and still flunk life.
Those are the values I cherish, the ones that anchor me when I despair about the direction of the nation, about the growing peril of children of all races and classes; those are the values I hope will anchor my three sons as they try to navigate a more complex and ever changing world.”